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Lawmaker wants additional judge for Indiana

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A bill proposed this week would add a new federal judgeship to the Southern District of Indiana, a recommendation that's been pitched for years but has failed to garner enough legislative support.

U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., Tuesday introduced the Federal Judgeship Act of 2009 that would add 63 new judgeships - temporary or permanent - throughout the country, including the one in Indiana. The Northern District of Indiana and the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals are not part of that proposal, which has been co-sponsored by Indiana's Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh.

The text of that legislation isn't yet available, but a news release from Leahy's office outlines the new judgeships he's proposing.

Boosting the judicial roster in that District Court has been on the table for many years, and Leahy pitched similar legislation last year. That legislation made it to the Senate Judiciary Committee but stalled after Republican lawmakers declined to conduct a hearing for testimony.

This new legislation follows a recommendation earlier this year from the federal judiciary's policymaking Judicial Conference of the United States, which proposed adding those judgeships in order to help reduce the backlog in the nation's courts. The Judicial Conference also voted in 2007 to add another judge to the Southern District, which has had five permanent judges since 1978.

Timing of this legislation would benefit the Southern District, if passed. While the court has a roster of five active judges, one of those slots is currently open after Judge Larry McKinney took senior status in July, although he will maintain a full caseload until a successor is named. Also, Chief Judge David F. Hamilton is awaiting a confirmation vote by the Senate for possible elevation to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals. If that happens, there will be an additional open slot on the District Court. If all that materializes, it would necessitate three judicial nominations for the court.

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